Disillusionment

Summary: "I can't," said Ginny, and she went scarlet too. "I'm going with—with Neville. He asked me when Hermione said no..." The Yule Ball, in Ginny's point-of-view.

Disclaimer: Please. If I were J.K. Rowling, I would not be wasting my time writing fanfiction.

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Ginny Weasley was not having a good day.

She trudged back to Gryffindor tower, her book bag slung heavily over her shoulder. Finally, she thought to herself, shifting the weight on her shoulder slightly. The day is over. I can go back to the Common Room and relax.

She sighed dispassionately as she stopped in front of the Fat Lady's portrait. "Lacewings."

The Fat Lady scrutinized her. "Sorry, dear. That's not the password."

"That's not the—what?" Ginny's eyes widened. "You never told me that the password was changed!" she accused, her voice rising.

The Fat Lady shrugged. "I informed everyone in the Common Room."

"I wasn't there! I don't know what the new password is!"

"Nothing I can do about it. You'll just have to wait until someone else comes and lets you in."

"But you know me," Ginny pleaded. "I'm a Gryffindor—I'm allowed in here—"

"Nothing I can do about it," the Fat Lady repeated. "It's for your own safety, you know."

"Let me in!" Ginny demanded. Her voice rose shrilly, and she mentally berated herself for sounding so childish. The day had put her in a bad mood.

The Fat Lady merely blinked.

"Uh... butterfly wings! Buffalo wings. Chicken casserole. Ford Anglia. No? Fine."

Ginny considered for a moment whether she should kick the portrait, then sighed in submission, deciding that it was not a wise thing to do. She sank down next to the portrait and rested her head against the wall, allowing her thoughts to wander.

It had really started last night, she mused, drawing her legs up against her chin. She'd promised Colin that she'd help him with Charms, and they'd worked for two hours after dinner. Then there was an Astrology lesson, and by the time Ginny returned to Gryffindor tower at one o' clock in the morning, she was far too tired to even think about finishing her homework. She promised herself that she would get up early to finish it.

Not only did she not get up early, but she also overslept. She'd awoken this morning to sunshine streaming over her bedspreads. She blinked several times and groggily looked at her clock, did a double take, and blinked again. No way. It could not possibly be quarter to nine—surely she had just laid her head on her pillow a few minutes ago...

With a yelp, she leaped out of bed, grabbed the article of clothing nearest to her, and pulled it over her head. Within five minutes, she was out the door, running down the deserted halls toward the dungeons. She burst into the classroom ten minutes late. Professor Snape eyed her and said coolly, "Late, Miss Weasley. Five points from Gryffindor. Detention."

Ginny lowered her head, her heart still hammering from sprinting all the way across the school, and made her way toward her seat.

"We had just collected the essays on Sleeping Draughts," Snape continued in his silky voice. "Where is yours?"

Ginny had to swallow before she answered, but she refused to give Snape the pleasure of seeing her nervous. "I don't have mine," she said in a clear voice.

Snape rubbed his long, yellow fingers together. "Ten more points from Gryffindor. And another detention."

"Yes, sir." Ginny sat down, wishing she had never gotten out of bed in the first place.

To make matters worse, she'd completely botched up her potion in class, causing Snape to take another five points off of Gryffindor. Ginny was in a foul mood by lunchtime.

"It's okay, Ginny," Colin tried to reassure her as they walked to the Great Hall together. "It's only—"

"Only twenty points and two detentions," Ginny said.

Colin sighed and shrugged, obviously deciding that Ginny was in a too snappish of a mood to listen to anything he had to say.

Ginny sat down and loaded her plate with baked potato, then entertained herself by violently chopping it into crumbs, pretending that it was Snape's head. Colin tried to subtly edge himself away from her, and she had to laugh.

"Sorry," she said. "I was just—"

She looked up upon hearing footsteps to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione approach the table. Ginny's hand grew sweaty, and she laid down her knife. She looked down at her food, trying not to seem like she was watching them. Or watching him, rather.

She could see him even though she was staring at her potato, which had been reduced to a fine powder. She saw as he moved ever closer to the table, his tousled black hair messier than ever, and his green eyes bright and almost glowing. She could feel a blush creep across her cheeks, and she lowered her head, still staring intently at her potato.

And then—and then Harry Potter sat down in the seat next to her.

Ginny tried to ignore the way her heart hammered in her chest as she lifted up a fork and tried to eat her potato normally.

Harry didn't even look at her. He was still evidently involved in a conversation with Ron and Hermione.

"...can't believe McGonagall's making me do this," Harry was moaning.

"Oh, Harry, it can't be that bad," Hermione said briskly, ladling gravy into her plate. "I'm sure half the girls in the school would want to go with you."

Ginny choked on her potato. The trio halted their conversation to stare at her. She shook her head and waved her hand wildly, trying to signal that she was perfectly fine. Colin handed a goblet of pumpkin juice to her, and she drained it. She coughed a few more times, then cleared her throat and returned to her potato. She could feel her face burning.

I'm sure half the girls in the school would want to go with you. Ginny puzzled over the meaning of Hermione's words.

"But I can't possibly ask anyone," Harry continued desperately. He ran a hand through his hand, and Ginny exercised all her willpower not to stare at him.

"You probably don't have to," Ron said. "There'll probably be girls all over the place lining up to ask you."

Harry laughed weakly. "Haha, Ron, very funny."

"I wasn't joking!"

"Harry, it's not a big deal," Hermione said. "It's only for one night. Here, you have to eat something for lunch, you know. You can't just skip all your meals because you have to ask some girl to the ball." She began to pile potatoes and carrots onto his plate.

Normally, Ginny would have been seething and staring at Hermione in intense dislike for her annoying meddlesome motherly ways toward Harry. But this time, what Hermione said caught her attention, and she managed to squeak out, "There's going to be a ball?"

All three turned to stare at her again, and Ginny fought to stop blushing.

"Yes, there's going to a ball," said Hermione. "On Christmas Day, for the Triwizard Tournament."

"Yeah, but only fourth-years and above can go," said Ron. "Sorry, Gin-Gin, you won't be able to go this year."

"You don't know that," said Hermione sensibly. "She could get asked by someone older than her, and then she could go."

Ginny, who had been pouring gravy on her potatoes, had completely forgotten that the gravy was still overflowing from the spout.

"Ginny, watch out!" Harry said sharply. He grabbed her hand and manually forced her to place the container of gravy back on the table. Ginny's hand tingled from where he had touched it. She looked down to see her plate flooded with gravy, and promptly blushed yet again.

"Sorry," she said lamely. Harry watched her for a moment, then turned back to Hermione and Ron. The three continued their conversation, and Ginny wisely spared herself from further possible embarrassment by excusing herself from lunch.

Professor McGonagall gave the announcement about the Yule Ball that very afternoon in Transfiguration, amid excited shrieks from the girls in Ginny's year. Ginny rolled her eyes and finished copying down her homework.

Anna McEntire leaned toward Ginny and whispered conspiratorially, "I know who you're going to ask, Ginny."

Ginny shut her notebook and stuffed it into her bag. "I'm not asking anyone."

Saffron Thomas gave a snort of disbelief. "Right, Ginny, we all know that you're in love with Har—"

"Shush!" Ginny looked around frantically to see if anyone had overhead.

"It's not as if the entire school doesn't know already," Anna said reasonably. "You've liked him ever since your—what?—first year."

"No, I haven't." She had told the truth, actually. Ginny had developed an infatuation with Harry the first time she had met him, in the train station when she was ten—before her first year.

"Ooh, denial," Saffron said teasingly. "I can see you're blushing, Ginny."

Ginny rolled her eyes again. This was why she had such trouble making friends with the girls in her dormitory—they were all like this, girly and gossipy and hopelessly empty-headed.

"One more word, Saffron, and I'll tell Evan Brightman that you like him," Ginny warned.

Saffron gasped. "You wouldn't dare!"

The bell rang, and Ginny exited the room without another word. She hurried toward the Great Hall for dinner.

Ginny spotted Harry, Ron, and Hermione already sitting at the Gryffindor table. She hesitated, wondering whether she was daring enough to sit down next to Harry. Shaking her head, she seated herself diagonally across from him.

Harry did not seem very talkative that night. He kept on staring at a point beyond Ginny, and she turned around to see what he was looking at. A girl. A very pretty Asian girl sitting at the Ravenclaw table. Her long, straight black hair was tied into a loose ponytail, and she was chatting animatedly with a girl on her left.

Ginny turned back to Harry. He was still staring at the Ravenclaw girl. Suddenly not hungry anymore, Ginny stood up and made her way back to the Common Room. Perhaps it was not a clever thing to do, for no one else had left dinner that early. Now she was sitting next to the portrait of the Fat Lady without the new password, stranded with no way to get in.

Ginny glanced down at her watch. Dinner had already begun half an hour ago; perhaps students would be going back to their respective Common Rooms in a few minutes. Ginny's stomach growled in protest at the lack of food, and she debated to herself whether or not she should go back to dinner.

No, she was not going to go back and watch Harry stare like a lovesick puppy at that—that girl. If she was hungry, she could always go to the kitchens after everyone else was asleep. She smiled to herself, remembering how she had blackmailed Fred and George into divulging the secret to her a year ago.

Footsteps echoed in the hall, and Ginny stood up eagerly. The figure emerged from the shadows, and she saw that it was Neville.

"Hi, Neville," she said.

Neville looked startled to see her. "Ginny! What are you doing here?"

She smiled sheepishly at him. "I've... sort of forgotten the password, and now I'm stuck here until a knowledgeable person can let me in."

"Lacewings," said Neville.

The Fat Lady shook her head.

"Damn it, that was last week's password!" Neville quickly covered his mouth. "Sorry about that—I don't usually swear. My grandmother would make me wash my mouth with soap."

"No problem," Ginny said. "Trust me, I hear much, much worse language from my brothers. I guess I've picked up on a lot of their bad habits." She played with the straps on her bag, then looked at Neville. "So you don't know the password, either. Guess we're stuck out here until someone else comes."

She sat back down, and Neville joined her awkwardly.

"Sorry about that," he said. "I'm always forgetting things..."

"It's all right. It wouldn't hurt to just wait a little longer."

A few minutes later, footsteps sounded through the hall again, footsteps made by none other than Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Ginny inwardly groaned. Harry had already seen her choke and spill her gravy today; why did he have to see her further embarrass herself?

"What are you two doing here?" Ron asked, looking from Ginny to Neville and back to Ginny.

"We forgot the password." Ginny stood up, dusted her robes, and went into the Common Room with the rest of the group.

That night, she lay in bed, thinking. The Yule Ball sounded wonderful, if only she could go. But she was merely a third-year, and no one would ask her unless he was desperate. She sighed and turned to her side. There was no one she could ask who would agree to go with her. Especially not Harry.

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